Vietnam tourism crippled by lack of funds for marketing

The International Tourism Fair was organized in HCMC last September by the Ministry of Tourism and the city. Originally intended to attract visitors to the country, the fair, over the past 14 years, has instead become a place where foreign tourism agencies seek out Vietnamese tourists abroad.

At tourist kiosks in Japan and South Korea, guests can try on traditional costumes.

The Japanese booth was the biggest this year. This one and those from Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea dazzled with their modern design and eye-catching images that caught visitors like a magnet.

The Cambodian stand had a four-sided idol of a god and a life-size replica of a temple, and entertained visitors with non-stop music and dance performances.

In contrast, the Vietnam National Tourism Administration (VNAT) booth barely stood out from last year, with the agency believing large photos of tourist attractions would suffice.

Lean tourism promotion budget

In numerous meetings, VNAT leaders have said that government funding for tourism promotion is too low and not competitive enough with that of other countries.

Vietnam’s tourism marketing budget is around $ 2 million per year, just 2.9 percent of Thailand’s, 2.5 percent of Singapore’s and 1.9 percent of Malaysia’s, according to Forbes.

Thus, Vietnam spent $ 0.15 per visitor given that there were almost 13 million arrivals last year. Thailand, which received 35 million visitors, spent almost $ 2 with its budget of $ 69 million.

But Pham Trung Luong, former deputy director of the Vietnam Institute for Tourism Development, said, “It doesn’t matter whether we receive more or less funds compared to the professionalism of our promotion. Did we spend the $ 2 million efficiently each year? “

Before traveling to Vietnam with her family, Michalina Stovaka from Poland tried to find information about the country, but there were few official sources, she said.

“I had to check out personal blogs and social media from strangers,” she said.

Stovaka is not an isolated case in the Vietnam travel community. Official tourist sites are very poor in content, speaking more about government management and policy than what tourists might hope to discover.

Huynh Phan Phuong Hoang, deputy general manager of Vietnam’s leading travel company Vietravel, said, “We need to increase the budget for practical promotional activities and adopt current trends such as promotion through apps, social media, websites and events in collaboration with travel bloggers. “

These are cost-effective promotional means that Vietnamese tourism seems to have overlooked, she said.

The spectacular Ha Long Bay. Photo by VnExpress / Meo Gia

Waiting for a tourism promotion fund?

A tourism promotion fund found mention in the 2005 Tourism Law, but remains on paper more than a decade later due to a lack of legal mechanisms and systems.

The changes to the law approved in 2017 call it the “Tourism Development Assistance Fund”.

The fund will be replenished from the state budget on an annual basis, but will also receive money from other sources such as entry and visa fees, donations and other legal means.

However, in addition to tourism promotion, the fund is also intended for market research and development of tourism products as well as training and human resource development for tourism and marketing. This makes many people in the tourism industry worried about spreading the money too much for it to be really beneficial.

Vu The Binh, vice president of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said the Tourism Promotion Fund and the Tourism Development Assistance Fund should be clearly distinguished from each other since “the two concepts are quite different”.

Luong said, echoing Binh’s point of view: “If we identify tourism promotion as the key objective, we will attract more sources of funding, including those from businesses. “

“The content used abroad to promote Vietnamese tourism is not appropriate. If, for example, tourists love nature but the tourism industry boasts of Vietnamese culture, it will fail. “

News channels are poor due to a lack of in-depth research, Luong said.

“Not everyone depends on the leaflets distributed at fairs. There are markets where potential tourists like to watch TV or go to social media. Thus, it is important to study the information channels in each market to be effective, ”he said.

Luong noted that tourism promotion funds should focus on digital marketing through websites, Facebook, Google, Instagram and Youtube.

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